Barking Dogs, Brother Valentino
There's a beautiful short film circulating the social media networks right now. If you haven't seen it, go to Vimeo and search "Pothound" and you'll find this most delightful story on a classic feature of Caribbean life. It's more evidence that the way to go is to explore and exploit the potential for our creative industriesbeyond China-manufactured bikinis I mean. In ten minutes, you get to see Trinidad looking sweet too bad and through the eyes of a dog. It has none of PETA's melodramatic stark images of animal cruelty, although Jah know we have a lot of people who do unspeakable cruelty to animals. But humans do unspeakable cruelty to themselves as well so doing harm to an animal is not so much a stretch for them. Pothound is just a simple, beautifully shot tribute to every dog you have loved, felt sorry for, run over, shouted "Mash!" at. It will make you cry for your first pet. Or your last. It will make you wish they would create a Trini version of the Littlest Hobo where a pothound is the canine superhero traversing the verdant Caroni plains rescuing abused children and biting bad politicians. But then again, dog doh bite dog. A pothound is about the most ubiquitous symbol of life in T&T. Truly, we are more dog people than cat people, cats getting the unfortunate stigma of evil thrown around after them, poor things. Too besides, cats are a little too own- way for Trinis' liking. Dogs on the other hand are quite swaggerific, they like to lime and they definitely like to make noise. I pity the poor folks out there who never had a dog growing up. The hero of the film reminds me of a dog the male parental unit once told me a story about. Bobbins the community pothound had a similar life to the people in the community. He was always on the run from the City Corporation's dog catchers. Everybody gave him scraps and cheered when he escaped the nets another time.
Nobody ever tried to catch him and turn him into the authorities or worse take ownership of him. But he was one of them. Just trying to eke out an existence and stay alive. He was nobody's dog but he had a name and he had food to eat if he needed and he protected his community because he knew they would protect him too. Bobbins wasn't a criminal. It wasn't his fault that he was born and he did what he had to do to survive. I often see dogs behind fences barking at the vagrant ones that get to roam the streets rushing cars and peeing on random standpipes. I imagine that these dogs also long to be free from behind the fence. To get a chance to wander around where they might get run over but they might also get randomly loved up by some hapless dog lover like myself. The risks are endless. So big-up to all the friends of dogs who open their homes to strays. But in some reverse anthropomorphism, I wonder if the humans who hide behind their jobs and their secure walls and their pedigree long to be roaming the streets experiencing life instead of watching it go past and wonder-ing what it would be like to be free. I'm not sure the filmmakers expected that I would reach such conclusions from their awesome little film that made me terribly homesick and also nostalgic for an easier time in my life when I wasn't a grown-up or trying to be one. When things were just what you saw in front of you and not a web of complexities and complications that could take your breath away. If you had a bad day, a friendly wag tail from a dog is like the universe's way of saying that it's going to be okay. There is nothing like the unconditional love of a pet and woe be unto those who take advantage of animals who can't openly express their pain and disappointment at being abused. Like the countless pothounds that have passed through my life, this film warmed the cockles of my tree-hugging animal-loving heart and made me really happy to be a Trini. Humans can be so disappointing sometimes. So caught up in their own self- importance, so distracted by trying to find the complexities of a thing, when some- times the solutions are so basic and primal that they go totally over our heads. What if we really just did random acts of kindness for each other, regardless of whether we eat out of the rubbish bin, or live on the streets, or aren't too sure who our father was. What if we could identify friend or foe by smell. What if we hadn't come so far away from our instincts for good and bad that we were able to go through our lives free enough to not expect a reward for doing something good. Pothounds and by extension animals can teach you, in a funny way, to be more human.
Attilah Springer Columnist